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What to do when computer viruses strike

Last week, we looked at ways to prevent a virus from entering a system this week, we wrap up the three-part discussion by looking at the steps of recovering an infected system. We start with some common symptoms of a virus infected computer, move into the basic repair procedure and end with some useful info for users at all levels of expertise. How do you know if your computer has a virus? Hints of a virus infection include indications such as the system appears to freeze at times, runs a little slower than normal, does not respond to the keyboard or mouse, restarts without user intervention and so forth. For discussion purposes, lets put all virus infection problems into one of two categories: infections that do not stop a computer from connecting to the Internet and infections that prevent Internet access. We start with the first category, which is a bit easier to deal with and perhaps the more common of the two. There are three basic steps to recover an infected system. The first step is to update the operating system, after that update the anti-virus program and finally perform a full scan of the system with the anti-virus program. When performing the full scan, ensure the entire contents of all hard drives and partitions are scanned. That means the C: drive for most users but more and more systems are appearing with a recovery partition, which may appear as D:. After that, perform a full scan of all removable media including flash drives and recordable compact disks. Delete or quarantine any viruses found. Quick action here should take care of many common viruses and help prevent the spread to other systems. Beyond these three basic steps, Windows users have two great Microsoft tools available: the Malicious Software Removal Tool and the Live OneCare safety scanner. Windows users can download, install and run the MSRT, which will scan computers running Vista and Windows XP and help remove any infections found. Microsoft releases an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month or more frequently, as necessary. The Live OneCare tool is an on-line scanner think of it as an anti-virus program located on another computer that allows you to scan your system. For more information on either tool, visit the Microsoft Web site at www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.mspx. In addition to the two Microsoft tools, there are other free scanning tools available. Alwil, who makes some very good security products, maintains one such tool called the Avast! Virus Cleaner. This tool is a cleaner, which means it will search, find and eradicate many viruses and worms. To use the tool, visit the Web site at www.avast.com/eng/down_cleaner.html. Cleaning a badly infected system is more complicated when the infection problem falls into the second category the Internet is not accessible. A badly infected system is one that has multiple viruses causing any of a number of system ills. Because we are unable to connect and update anything on the infected system we need the help of another computer. How are we going to use this other computer? By downloading a scanning tool such as Avast! to a removable media like a flash drive and subsequently accessing the tool on the infected system. Remember to scan the flash drive after the process to ensure it is clean of viruses. More experienced users may find some useful virus removal tools at the Kaspersky Lab Web site. The good folks at Kaspersky Labs have developed many free virus removal tools. The approach Kaspersky took is different than the approach by Awil. Where Awils scanning tool is an all-in-one tool, Kaspersky has developed many different tools that are specific to certain viruses. To use a Kaspersky tool you must have an accurate idea of which virus you are dealing with. They are located at www.kaspersky.com/removaltools. I would recommend all Windows users take a look at the current settings in the security center. Windows XP users get there by clicking Start, selecting the Control Panel and then selecting the Security Center within the Control Panel window. Once there, ensure all three security settings are on and being monitored. One of the security settings involves the Windows Firewall. Firewalls provide protection by shielding the system against outside attacks and unauthorized access. Use of a firewall is increasingly important for users having a cable or DSL Internet service due to the always on nature of the connection. Users should inspect the security area about once a week because the goal of some viruses is to turn off one or more of the monitored settings so another virus can slip in undetected. As we near the end of this weeks article, a final thought common infection signs could just as well be caused by hardware or software problems and actually not be caused by a virus. So, if you suspect a virus but run through the procedure and come up empty handed, it could mean the system has a non-virus related problem. Our time is up once more. Thanks for reading and have a safe, productive week.

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